Beacons, Beacons, Everywhere


What’s small, covered in silicone, and has a sticky side so you can slap it on a wall? Brella’s latest hi-tech toy, that’s what. The industry term is “beacon,” and we’ve been playing with the Estimote version.

Estimote Beacon Deployed

Here’s the scenario: You walk into a store, and your cellphone lights up, maybe with a welcome message, or a coupon, or a special offer.

Or say you’re at an auto auction, and as you walk by a car that’s for sale, the entire CARFAX® history of the vehicle becomes available for download.

All of this is possible with beacons, mini-computers that use Bluetooth 4.0 to communicate with mobile devices. The cool thing is that they are cheap, small, run for two years on a battery, and can talk to any app that speaks their language.

A beacon can be adjusted to broadcast as wide as 100 feet, covering an entire meeting room or storefront. Or it can be attenuated to a radius no larger than a tabletop. This means that multiple beacons set around, say, a clothing store, can broadcast different information for each table of shirts, each wall of pants, and each rack of dresses.

How does this impact our clients? Well, think about what this could mean for trade shows, expos, or educational forums. Imagine having attendees drawn to your booth with a welcome message, incentive, or even a map (so they don’t get lost). Don’t want to print out materials? Be green and frugal at the same time by delivering documents right to their phones! Program a beacon for each area of your booth so that attendees can choose only the documents they want.

For the ultimate green expo, put one beacon at each booth, allowing the sales staff to concentrate on actually communicating with their customers, instead of handing out materials.

The possibilities for education are just as limitless, for learning by exploration and doing.

Imagine: A biology class visits an aquarium. As they view each tank, the students receive bite-sized textbook information on their phones. Still images, audio files, and videos supplement their in-person experience, and they don’t have to do a thing. They don’t just see a jellyfish—they learn, interactively, what makes a jellyfish work. The information is pushed automatically to them via the beacons. And before they leave? Beacons can also test their comprehension through the use of interactive exercises and quizzes.

Beacons are bleeding-edge technology, and Brella is all over them. Our programmers are playing with the APIs and applications, ways to bring beacon tech to our client base. Let us know if you want to join us in exploring this brave new world and we would be happy to share our knowledge with you!

We’re going to start by setting up a beacon or three in Brella’s Evanston HQ, allowing instant broadcast of information throughout our office. After all, if you’re going to play with experimental, cutting-edge technology, why not start at home?

Estimote Beacons